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Compiegne as a region has seen the French monarchy residing there for periods of time since the 14th century and the reign of Charles V. The chateau as we see it today was built for Louis XV in the 18th century and was subsequently restored after the French Revolution by Napoleon. Compiegne, like most of the great chateaux we have visited, became popular because of its forests and hunting.

Once becoming Emperor Napoleon divorced Josephine because she had not produced him with an heir. He married Marie-Therese, an Austrian archduchess. By all accounts life at Compiegne under Napoleon and Marie-Therese was a bit of a bore. Napoleon was a notorious workaholic and Marie-Therese lacked the wit and charm of Josephine.

It does not seem that Napoleon spent an overwhelming amount of time at Compiegne but was clearly pleased with its size and magnificence. Napoleon did a lot of remarkable things for France post-Revolution but he unfortunately did not learn to live less like a King than his predecessors. Like monarchs for thousands of years Napoleon enjoyed hunting in the lush forests surrounding Compiegne and this was the primary activity when guests were invited to the chateau.

Compiegne as a city is famous for a few other things in addition to the chateau. In 1430 this is the city where Joan of Arc was captured. The ballroom within the chateau was used as a hospital during World War I and it is also in Compiegne that the Armistice between the Allies and Germany ended World War I on 11 November 1918. The train where the Armistice was signed remained in tact and in the forest of Compiegne until World War II when a second treaty was signed in the forest, this time arranging an armistice between France and Nazi Germany (22 June 1940). With an unmistakable desire to humiliate his defeated enemy, German dictator Adolf Hitler gave orders that the surrender should be received in exactly the same spot, even the same railway car, where the Germans had to surrender in 1918. Hitler then had the rail car brought to Germany where it was ultimately blown up in Allied bombings towards the end of the war.

At this point in our history of France Napoleon is once again in exile on Saint Helena island and we will continue into the Restoration of France. Our next and last stop is the chateau at Chantilly. Next to Vaux le Vicomte one of the prettiest chateaux in all of France.

Next stop – Chantilly